When an ordinary waiter attains knowledge, he is a sage. When a sage attains understanding, he is an ordinary waiter. Both have to tip out the bar.
One of the most crucial aspects with any practice, be it spiritual, sports, music, whatever, is to make notes of your improvements along the way. We're going to fall short of our ideals - that's why it's a practice. But occasionally though, there are some markers along the way. Some recent ones for me...
A little while ago, one of my co-workers asked me how my night was going: if I was making decent money, how my tips were, etc. I paused to respond, and realized I had absolutely no idea. I had no idea what my sales were, I had no idea what my tips had been like, I hadn't been paying attention to any of those things at all. I was just going through my night, providing service, navigating the waters, and taking in whatever I got. This is not the norm; usually, if you were to ask me that question, my response would have been something like, "Pretty good, I'm at about $850/ $875 in sales right now, gotten some pretty decent tips - couple of $15 on $70s, mostly 18-20%, but this one table, uch, they left me $15 on $125; and I ran my ass off for them - how hard is it to leave 15%?!" But that night, and really, almost every night since then, I just haven't cared. It doesn't matter. Keeping track of those things in no way, shape, or form helps me to do my job any better - if anything, it lessens my effectiveness because I'm steaming about a 10% tip or how crappy my sales are or whatnot.
Another example: just this past Sunday I was working a dinner shift and had an extremely slow start. The server I was relieving was keeping all of her tables, which then proceeded to camp out, so it was about an hour before I got my first table. After that, some of the tables from my section were removed to give to another server for a party he was working (this actually happened on two sides of me simultaneously, basically halving my section to just two tables). In the past my normal reaction would have been to immediately start bitching ("G-damnit, it's hard enough to make money here without losing half my section..." etc, etc). But I didn't. I didn't care. I was able to look past the immediacy of the moment and just accept and allow what the restaurant was giving me, trusting that it would probably even out in the end. Sure enough, because of the way the parties had played out my neighbors on both ends ending up giving me a 5 and a 6 top respectively, so for the next turn I was running three 6-tops and a 5 (translation for non-waiters: Good money). The point being, I was able to look past the immediacy of the moment (I'm getting screwed) and just trust the universe to deliver on its own timetable.
The last thing I'll mention is a bit of satori I experienced a while back, and have gratefully been able to call upon regularly since then ("satori" is a Buddhist term meaning "a sudden flash of insight or awakening"). Have you ever had a dream where you became lucid in the middle of it? As in, you woke up in the dream, were able to look around and realize, "Oh, hey, I'm dreaming. None of this is real"? The same thing happened to me at work. The kitchen was running long on ticket times, I was running around looking for serving spoons or something and, just as I was starting to get all worked up about it, it suddenly occurred to me that absolutely none of this really mattered. None of this was actually "real" in the sense of being the least bit important; certainly not in the Big Picture, but also not in any Picture beyond that brief turn of tables. Aside from just saying "It's only food," I actually believed it. I'm not sure how or why that finally sunk in, I'm just grateful it did.
Okay, glad that's done. Back to being bitter.